Champions Middlesex on back foot in Lancashire
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Tense final day in store at Southport
A stirring fightback from Lancashire’s tail-enders and three wickets for slow left armer Stephen Parry ensured it will be the hosts who go into the final day of this Specsavers County Championship clash with Middlesex confident of victory.
Following Saturday’s total washout a complete day’s play was possible with only the blustery conditions preventing this from being a perfect experience for the patient Southport spectators as Lancashire fought hard to contrive a winnable position and raise the possibility of ending defending champion Middlesex’s 21-match unbeaten run.
At the close of an extended final session Middlesex are 27 runs ahead but with only four wickets in hand to help them extend their slender lead after Lancashire compiled an unlikely total of 309 in their first innings.
Crucial to the change in momentum of the Lancashire effort was Ryan McLaren who came in to bat following the early loss of Shiv Chanderpaul after he had failed to add to his overnight score of 32 when he edged Tim Murtagh to Sam Robson at first slip.
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The hosts went from 125-5 to 136-6 as Dane Villas also fell to Murtagh but with Lancashire rocking a 62-run partnership for the seventh wicket between McLaren and Jordan Clark saw the Red Rose eke out a lead before James Harris trapped Clark in front for 38.
The same bowler dismissed Parry, caught at second slip by Dawid Malan soon afterwards, but Tom Bailey then joined McLaren at the crease for an even more productive partnership as the pair extended the total to 291 before the South African was bowled for 75 by Murtagh, who picked up 6-63 off his 28 overs.
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Bailey, determined to go down all guns blazing, hit two consecutive sixes before holing out to Stevie Eskinazi to give James Harris his fourth wicket as he reached a career best score of 58.
A lead of 129 looked incredibly useful and was made to look even better when Nick Gubbins was adjudged to have edged Saquib Mahmmod behind for one despite retrospective evidence that it had hit his arm rather than his glove.
Robson and Eskinazi looked to rebuild the innings from 5-1 and they had reached 64 when the latter was beaten by a fine delivery from Parry and bowled for 42.
Seven overs later Robson joined him in the dressing room after he played a loose to shot to a wide one from McLaren and was pouched by a leaping Steven Croft at backward point.
Seam and swing bowling had so far dominated the game but it was Parry, who did not even bowl in the first innings, who now began to determine the course of events.
The 30th over saw the left armer claim two wickets in four balls as Paul Stirling was trapped in front for 12 before wicketkeeper John Simpson was caught at short leg by a diving Vilas for a duck to leave the Middlesex innings in tatters at 99-5 and still 30 runs in arrears.
Lancashire’s day was topped off when Mahmood bowled skipper James Franklin without scoring with an excellent yorker to leave Malan unbeaten on 45 and Harris (15 not out) battling their way to 156-6 at the close.